Bupropion Treatment Understanding Uses and Effects

Bupropion, a medication with a complex history, has become a cornerstone in modern medicine. Its primary use is to treat major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and aid in smoking cessation.

Bupropion became an FDA-approved drug in 1985, marketed as Wellbutrin. In addition, the drug is also known under several brand names such as, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL, Zyban, and Aplenzin. As one of the most commonly prescribed medicines, bupropion prescriptions have steadily increased over the past 20 years. From 2004, prescriptions have nearly doubled from 17 million to 28.89 million prescriptions yearly.

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What is Bupropion Used For?

Bupropion is a medication that is primarily used for the treatment of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs at a specific time of year, usually in the winter when daylight hours are shorter. Studies highlight its effectiveness, especially in individuals with atypical depression symptoms or those who have not responded adequately to other medications.

Bupropion also helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and nicotine cravings. It was marketed under the brand name Zyban, but has been discontinued in the US in 2022.

Aside from these, some off-label applications of Bupropion include treatment for ADHD, although this is not an approved indication in the US, and for weight management.

What is Bupropion Used For?

Bupropion’s mechanism of action involves the inhibition of norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake. Unlike selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), it does not impact serotonin levels significantly, which can sometimes lead to side effects like sexual dysfunction or weight gain. This unique pharmacology contributes to its efficacy and sets it apart from other antidepressants.

Is Bupropion an SSRI?

No, Bupropion is not an SSRI. It belongs to a different class of antidepressants called norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). While both SSRIs and NDRIs are used to treat depression, they work in different ways. SSRIs directly affect serotonin levels, while NDRIs do not.

While generally well-tolerated, Bupropion can cause a range of side effects, some more common than others. Not everyone will experience these side effects, and their severity can vary from person to person.

Bupropion Side Effects

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Dry Mouth

This is the most frequent side effect, commonly affecting up to 80% of users

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Up to 30% of people experience nausea and vomiting

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Sleep disturbances and difficulty in falling asleep

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Dizziness and Headache

Relatively common side effects that usually improve over time as the body adjusts

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Increased Blood Pressure

Some people may experience elevated blood pressure or hypertension.

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Mild tremors in the hands or limbs

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Changes in Appetite

Some may experience decreased appetite or weight loss

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Rare but serious risk especially for those taking higher doses.

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Allergic Reactions

Skin rash, hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing are all possible, although uncommon.

Is Bupropion addictive?

No, Bupropion is not considered addictive and has a low potential for abuse and addiction compared to other medications such as benzodiazepines or opioids. However, it should be taken exactly based on its medication guide to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms or overdose.

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Abruptly stopping Wellbutrin or rapidly decreasing the dosage of Bupropion can lead to withdrawal symptoms in some, although they are less common compared to other antidepressants. These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration from person to person.

Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms of Bupropion include:

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

These include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Digestive issues
  • Sleep problems
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness and Headaches

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

These include:

  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability and increased outbursts
  • Brain zaps or “brain shivers”

A drug’s half-life refers to the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from Bupropion’s half-life is a bit more complex than a simple single value. It depends on several factors, including the formulation, dosage, and individual factors like age and medical history.

Immediate-Release (IR)

Shortest half-life of around 3-4 hours.

Sustained-Release (SR)

This has a half-life of around 9-12 hours.

Allergic Reactions

Longest half-life of around 21 hours.

Chronic vs. Acute Dosing

The appropriate dosage of bupropion varies based on the specific condition being treated. Chronic dosing prescribed for depression management. Meanwhile, acute dosing is applied for smoking cessation and seasonal affective disorders.

While the initial half-life is as mentioned above, when Bupropion is taken chronically (daily), the active metabolites accumulate in the body and extend the effective half-life to around 21 hours.

How long does Wellbutrin stay in your system?

Based on its half-life, Bupropion or Wellbutrin takes about six days to leave the body in average. However, certain factors such as genetics, dosage, and metabolism, can affect how long the drug stays in the body.

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Bupropion can interact with various medications, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other drug interactions include:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Blood thinners
  • Sedatives

Patients taking bupropion should inform their healthcare providers about all medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Additionally, do not take two medications together that both contain Bupropion.

Other Precautions

Patients need to have open communication with healthcare providers, especially in terms your existing medical conditions. People who have the following conditions should not take this drug:

  • Seizure disorder
  • Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
  • Bipolar disorder

​​Consuming alcohol while on a Bupropion prescription can also increase your risk of having unpleasant side effects.

Bupropion’s unique mechanism of action and relative tolerability compared to other antidepressants have contributed to its rising popularity. However, it’s crucial to remember that it’s a prescription medication with potential risks, and its use should be carefully monitored by a healthcare professional.

If you or someone you know is in need of detox and addiction treatment, Scottsdale Detox is here to help you. Our team of expert addiction specialists are trained to provide guidance and education about Bupropion and other medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options for you to explore.

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